September 6, 2002
Dear Subscribers:So much to tell you about this week! Here's our lineup for this first week of September:
- Family Tech: Net literacy - teachers vs. students; Printing out 'picture-perfect' photos at home
- CyberTipline's new area of help for online kids
- Remembering September 11
- Web News Briefs: BeSafeOnline.org; Beware 'PC rooms'; Educators on CIPA; Anti-spam groups push FTC; Tech for music students; Napster, Madster no longer; Filtering in Australia; IM anarchy....
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- Net literacy: Teachers lag behind students
There's no denying that it's great for mutual respect and students' self-esteem when teachers turn to students for tech support. However, writes SafeKids.com's Larry Magid, "there is a difference between calling on students' expertise ... vs. a teacher who simply isn't knowledgeable or supportive of technology or the use of the Internet." Tracking his own children's experience with tech in school and taking into account the recent Pew Internet & American Life report, "The Digital Disconnect" Larry has seen both ends of the bargain, and they point to a phenomenon parents need to be aware of:
"What we have is another generation gap. Most kids are digital, and most adults are analog. As with any generalization, there are exceptions but for most teachers I've spoken with, the Internet is a tool, not a lifestyle. It's something they access from a machine perched inside a classroom, library, or home. For students it's much more. It isn't a machine at the library, it is the library." In this latest Family Tech column for the San Jose Mercury News, Larry goes on to suggest ideas for tackling this other digital divide.
Focusing on what the 98% of US schools that are connected are doing with their connections, Wired News writes this week that "educators are becoming more realistic about what they can do with technology." Among other useful sources, the article points to a still fairly small database of studies about technology's impact on learning. Clearly, the jury's still out: Red Herring suggests that "after hundreds of exhaustive studies, there remains no conclusive proof that technology in the classroom actually helps to teach students. In fact, in some cases it hinders learning. And even if there is a benefit, the amount of money and resources being expended to put technology into the classroom does not match the current or expected benefit." Here's more from Wired News on education-technology assessment and "Bridging the Tech-Education Gap".
- 'Developing' great photos at home
Following his column on family photo editing, this week Larry explains how printing "picture-perfect" photos at home just got easier.
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CyberTipline's new area of help for online kids
Parents and teachers should know that there are now six, not five, types of child exploitation which get quick action from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's hotline. The CyberTipline is the only service of its kind in the world, providing rapid-response, triage-style support for children at risk.
Available on the Web or by phone at 1-800-843-5678, the CyberTipline has just added a sixth category: "unsolicited obscene material sent to a child" (see the Tipline's main Web page).
"We launched it this past Friday at 4 pm," Ruben Rodriguez, director of the NCMEC's Exploited Child Unit, told us in a phone interview this week. "We had met with the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and they asked us about the feasibility of a reporting mechanism for obscene unsolicited spam sent to children," he added, "and we said, 'Absolutely'."
The CyberTipline page explains that it is a crime for any person to attempt to or knowingly send or transfer obscene material to another individual who has not attained the age of 16 years. Whether attached to an email (unsolicited email often called "spam") as an image or a link to one, "obscene material" is defined as "visual depictions of persons engaging in sexually explicit conduct." (The other five categories are all described at CyberTipline.com.)
"There's always been an issue in the adult porn industry going after kids," Ruben told us. "They say they're not, but these direct-marketing companies are sending blanket advertisements to everybody, including children.... Of course their plea is, 'we're just delivering a service - how can we tell [the recipient's age]?' Well, the responsibility is on them.... The Department of Justice sees this as needing to be addressed and is going after these cases aggressively."
How the CyberTipline works
Former Vice President Al Gore called the CyberTipline "the 9-1-1 of the Internet." It may not be quite that, but the Tipline is unprecedented (and as close to calling 9-1-1 as any national service could be) in these ways:
- It's available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day - meaning, there's always someone there who reviews every report coming in and acts on an emergency immediately.
- When an emergency case does come in, the Tipline can mobilize law enforcement at local and national, as well as international, levels right away.
- The FBI, US Customs, the US Postal Service, and now the Justice Department's Child Exploitation & Obscenity Section (CEOS) receive reports simultaneously with the Tipline at the National Center, which is also in close, two-way communication with international law enforcement agencies and hotlines.
As a call or Web report is submitted, NCMEC staff immediately prioritize the information. If a child is in immanent danger ("Priority 1"), "the FBI gets involved immediately, and we identify and contact the appropriate state and local law enforcement," Ruben said. An example he gave us is when a child has been contacted and convinced to meet with a stranger and has left home to do so (a real-life example is "Amy's Story" at the NCMEC's Netsmartz.org). Piority Level 2 is when there is potential immediate danger - a child has been chatting online, his mom has discovered the communication and feels there is a threat to the child. Priority 3 examples are child pornography and the obscene email described in the new, sixth, category of cases the Center handles. Ruben added that "sometimes individuals while 'grooming' a child [for a meeting in person] will send the child pornography - that would up the priority level."
For international perspective, here's a BBC News piece this week on sex spam and children in the UK. About 5 million UK children under 16 now use the Net, the BBC points out. "And while a new European law limiting bulk, unwanted e-mails is expected next year, it is virtually worthless [for UK and European children], because most are sent from outside Europe."
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Remembering September 11
None of us could forget. It's good, though, to have some of the stories, lessons, and resources brought back into focus by fine Web resources like these:
- Sanctuary. NationalGeographic.com has the story of the "little chapel that stood" (just a few hundred yards from the World Trade Center towers). For nine months, starting September 12, St. Paul's Chapel was a relief center, a 24/7 sanctuary for tired workers, providing burgers, coffee, massages, listeners, schoolchildren's love notes, music, quiet - every kind of comfort and support the church workers could think of. The page offers many perspectives in many media formats. Elsewhere in National Geo's 9/11 section you'll find a child's-eye-view of 9/11 - the stories of fourth-graders at neighboring P.S. 234.
- Sudden shelter. And from another relief center, geographically distant but still very close to the events of that day: Gander, Newfoundland. Here's the Web site of Ken Arsenault, an air traffic controller who helped guide "39 heavy aircraft" that were diverted to Gander 9/11 - a lot of visitors all at once (according to the city's official Web site, greater Gander has a population of about 100,000 and about 500 hotel rooms). The page includes links to much more information and photos, including one of a bulletin board at Ken's children's school, Gander Academy, which became known to some 750 stranded passengers as "Hotel Gander Academy."
- Reconnecting. "One Year Later: September 11 and the Internet" from the Pew Internet & American Life project found that "19 million Americans rekindled relationships after 9/11 by sending email to family members, friends, former colleagues, and others that they had not contacted in years," and 83% of them "have maintained those relationships through the past year"; US Net users are "using email more often, gathering news online more often, visiting government Web sites more often, giving more donations via the Internet, and seeking health and mental health information more often because of the 9/11 attacks"; and more than two-thirds of Americans say they think the government should have "wide privileges in deciding what information to post on government agency Web sites and what information to keep off government sites for fear it will help terrorists." Just a month after the attacks, Pew released "The Commons of the Tragedy: How the Internet was used by millions after the terror attacks to grieve, console, share news, and debate the country's response".
- Recovering. In "The Aftershocks of National Tragedy: Helping Kids Cope", ConnectforKids.org has pulled together dozens of links - from resources for helping children and adults cope with trauma to anti-discrimination sites to 9/11 history lesson plans for teachers.
- The Internet's role.The Internet Education Foundation provides a look at the role the Internet played after the attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania - how it helped people "Connect," "Coordinate," "Console," and "Contribute." Each of these pages has snapshots of Web pages - not links, unfortunately (though some of the pages probably still exist) - illustrating these activities.
- 9/11 on record. The IEF's press release announcing the site also points to the Library of Congress's remarkable archive of post-9/11 Web activity. A valuable collection of reliable links "Documenting the Tragedy" from the New York State Historical Records Advisory Board - "archives, museums, libraries, organizations, and individuals who are creating digital repositories of September 11 documents, recordings, and photographs," writes Marylaine Block, "librarian without walls" and author of "Neat New Stuff I Found This Week". No single event has ever caused the publication of more books, says the Christian Science Monitor, referring to the 300+ September 11-related books published since. Here's the Monitor's 9/11 book guide. And here's an insightful Monitor story - both personal and professional - about one former World Trade Center tenant's life this past year (like a book we couldn't put down).
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Web News Briefs
- New online-safety site out of Scotland
BeSafeOnline.org is an interactive primer for parents about how kids use the Internet. The multilingual site was developed by Learning and Teaching Scotland and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council; launched by education groups in Scotland, Iceland, Spain, and the Netherlands; and partially funded by the European Union, the BBC reports. The Edinburgh Evening News leads its coverage of the launch with the story of a preteen Scottish girl who, thanks to an alert dad, narrowly avoided meeting with a "13-year-old" chatroom "friend" who is actually a 50-year-old convicted rapist. The suspect, "with convictions for violence and dishonesty dating back 30 years, was arrested just hours before the unsuspecting girl and her 11-year-old friend were due to meet him at St. Andrews Square bus station," the Evening News reports.
- From LAN parties to 'PC rooms'
It's definitely not a computer lab, but it contains about the same number of PCs and its participants are kids. It's called a "PC room," and - as the New York Times points out - there are now hundreds of these neighborhood arcades across the US, arcades connecting powerful computers to high-speed networks. We've mentioned "LAN parties" (see Web News Briefs, 8/23), well, this is the commercial version). "The debate over whether and how to restrict children from playing ... violent games is taking a new twist, thanks to the setting where [seven-year-old player] Damien and a growing number of children have begun to spend their afternoons and evenings." It's a debate because these rooms typically charge $5 an hour and do not check players' ages or limit their access to adult-rated, sometimes extremely violent games. PC room operators say the onus is on parents to restrict children's access, the Times reports.
- Educators on filtering law
Last spring the US Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) asked for comments from the public by August 27 about the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 (see "School filtering: Your views wanted"). The law requires schools receiving federal connectivity ("e-rate") funds to install filtering or blocking technology on Net-connected computers. This week we were able to get a sense of what those comments - from the likes of the International Society for Technology in Education, the National Education Association, and the Consortium for School Networking - told the government via a report from eSchoolNews. According to eSchoolNews, "the NTIA will use the comments to make recommendations to Congress about how to foster the development of technology protection measures that meet schools' needs." Here's Wired News on schools' reactions to CIPA, "Filters, Schools Like Oil, Water".
- Consumers urge FTC crackdown on spam
This week three US consumer groups - Consumer Action, the National Consumers League, and the Telecommunications and Research Action Center - asked the Federal Trade Commission to develop new rules to combat "spam" (unsolicited commercial, or "junk," email). The Commission already gets about 10,000 spam emails forwarded to it a day (via email@example.com), but "has so far focused on deceptive and fraudulent messages," the Washington Post reports, and consumers want the FTC to attack spam altogether. In its coverage this week, CNET reported that, by this past July, spam made up 36% of all email, up from 8% about a year ago - figures from Brightmail, a company that provides anti-spam services to businesses. And Brightmail predicts that spam could constitute the majority of all Net message traffic by the end of the year. Here's ZDNet with more details on the consumers' groups proposal to the FTC.
- Tech for music students
Online master classes is just the most interesting of a number of developments described briefly in a BBC report this week. High-speed lines are used to connect students at the Manhattan School of Music with world-class professional soloists and artists in other parts of the world. It's exciting to think about how much more access at how much reduced cost students now have to this level of teaching talent and artistry. "Peak connection speeds are 200,000 times faster than a dialup modem so there is no audio delay," the BBC says, and sound quality is that of a CD and video that of high-definition television. Please see the article to find out how technology is helping aspiring orchestra conductors and other kinds of musicians.
- Milestone: Napster no longer
As for music listeners and file-swappers, the big news this week is Napster's demise (if they're old enough to have followed the several-year-long story). "A federal judge Tuesday blocked the $9 million sale of [pioneer file-sharing service] Napster to German media giant Bertelsmann, a decision likely to force the onetime file-swapping powerhouse out of business," CNET reports. Because of litigation, Napster hadn't operated as a file-sharing service for more than a year, but this appeared to be the final blow. Most of the company's remaining 42 employees were laid off Tuesday, including Shawn Fanning, who created the software at age 19 in January 1999 and founded Napster, Inc., the following May. In related news, Napster offshoot Madster, formerly called Aimster, will be ordered to shut down too, CNET reports.
- Filtering for students in Australia
Nearly 1.5 million students and teachers in New South Wales will have their Net access and email - or "e-learning accounts" - filtered for sexually explicit and profane language, the Sydney Morning Herald reports."One of the largest information technology projects in Australia, the e-learning accounts will connect 1.2 million students and 130,000 teachers by June next year to a massive bank of data servers in North Ryde." The $33 million ($17.9 million US) project will use a range of filters for Web browsing, chat, email, and discussion boards. (Our thanks to QuickLinks for pointing this item out.)
- IM anarchy
For instant-messaging devotees who want a very complete picture on where we are and where we're headed with "interoperability," AOL vs. everyone else, Trillian, Jabber, SMS, and all the rest, see the recent takeout in The Guardian. It contains lots of insider lingo, but for anyone trying to keep up with the technologies IM-ers use (and the barriers they run into), it's worth a skim.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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